Brent Council unveils new artwork on the contested history of park

Brent Council has announced that they will unveil a brand new horticultural public artwork that addresses the contested history of Gladstone Park.

The park is named after British Prime Minister Sir William Gladstone whose family owned plantations in the Caribbean and received the largest of all compensation payments made by the Slave Compensation Commission.

The new artwork will be unveiled on October 14 as part of Black History month and will mark the first time in the UK’s history that a public artwork of this kind has been used to acknowledge the contested history of green space.

It comes after the launch of the Commission for Diversity in the Public Realm in 2020, created by the UK government to review statues, street names and landmarks to ensure they reflect London’s rich and diverse history and represent all Londoners.

And with the Borough of Brent being one of the most diverse in the UK, the Council took the chance to develop a public art commission which explores the transatlantic slave trade whilst creating a space to reflect, celebrate and amplify hidden histories and Black leaders who have had an influence on Brent.

The artwork, ‘The Anchor, The Drum, The Ship’ (2022), is a horticultural land art installation that will bring together plant species native to Britain, Africa and the Mediterranean across three shapes.

It uses the three shapes of the Akan symbol for a Double Drum, a ship, and an anchor to evoke themes of Black migration, belonging, communication, music and collective renewal.

The constellation of shapes (anchor, drum and ship) that make up ‘The Anchor, The Drum, The Ship’ (2022) offers a set of triangulation points to create a conversation around Victorian aesthetics, plantations, horticulture, colonialism, migration, botany and storytelling.

The work is spatially in dialogue with the remnants of Dollis Hill House, a former property that regularly received Prime Minister William Gladstone.

Councillor Muhammed Butt, Leader of Brent Council, said: “This outstanding public artwork acknowledges the achievements and contributions made to Brent by people of Black heritage and shines a light on some unexplored corners of our local history.

“It’s so important that these hidden pasts are embraced as part of the borough’s history, and it’s brilliant that we now have this space for learning, reflection, gathering, celebrating and dreaming.”

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